Developing a Replicable Model for Sustainable Technology Entrepreneurship in Afghanistan

University of Colorado - Boulder, 2006 - $43,560

As initially proposed, this team aimed to aid Afghanistan in its rebuilding efforts by training the country's undereducated and underfunded engineering faculty.  CU-Boulder offered a number of educational opportunities to Afghani faculty, including scholarships to allow them to complete online CU-Boulder certificate courses (through a subcontract of a USAID grant to Washington State University); loans of online library courses to Kabul University at little or no cost; training from US engineering and business experts on how to develop sustainable engineering and business solutions involving online components, face-to-face meetings, and short courses.

After the initial plan of offering online training for university faculty proved to be untenable because of the technological divide, and hosting several tech entrepreneurship workshops in and around Kabul with varying results, the team partnered with Afghans for Tomorrow (A4T) and this grant took a new direction.  In January 2008, CU and A4T piloted schools with fuel briquette facilities that could produce 1000 fuel briquettes a day (a family of five needs 5 briquettes per day).  Students attend school in the mornings (with a dedicated teacher who provides lessons up the 5th grade level) and make briquettes in the afternoons.  The project started with 20 street children and disabled young persons from Kabul.  In July 2008 Afghans for Tomorrow established their first training center.  As of spring 2009 hundreds of Afghanis have been trained at 28 established briquette facilities.  More than 5,600kg of briquettes were produced in the last six months of 2008 and in 2009 there were 64 Briquette Team graduates.  The goal is to employ 5,000 children eventually and the project has been cleared by the Ministry of Children’s Affairs to ensure that it is not in violation of child labor laws. The Ministry is very happy with the project as the work does not require heavy lifting, bending, eye-strain, etc. and  all of the workers are paid a decent wage.

Summer 2009 update: What began as a project envisioned to provide on-site training to Afghan faculty and potential social entrepreneurs has turned into a multi-organizational partnership that has created an opportunity for individuals to become gainfully employed, attend school, and take steps toward becoming self-sufficient small business owners. This team has leveraged $72,000 as a start-up grant in August 2008 to pay 30 salaries and is currently completing a feasibility analysis prior to launching an entrepreneurial venture.